Thai police summon protest leaders for breaching COVID-19 emergency law

Thai police summon protest leaders for breaching COVID-19 emergency law

Harry Potter-themed pro-democracy protest in Bangkok
Anon Nampa (right), dressed as a wizard, attends a Harry Potter-themed protest demanding the resignation of Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug 3, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

BANGKOK: Thai police have summoned five organisers of student-led protests against the government, saying they had violated a coronavirus emergency decree that forbids large gatherings, police told Reuters on Wednesday (Aug 5).

Among those called for questioning was human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, who two days ago had demanded reforms of Thailand's powerful monarchy, a highly sensitive topic.

READ: Thais 'cast a spell' for democracy in Harry Potter-themed protest

Police said, however, Anon, 35, was being summoned over an earlier protest in July outside the army headquarters.

That demonstration was among a series of near-daily, student-led rallies around Thailand since mid July that have demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and amendments to a military-drafted Constitution they say maintains army influence over the political system.

"Anon and four others have been summoned for questioning and to hear the charge of breaching the emergency decree," police lieutenant colonel Athich Donnanchai, deputy director of Nanglerng police, told Reuters.

Anon was separately the subject of an official complaint on Wednesday that asked police to take action against him for breaches of the emergency decree and of the Constitution, concerning his remarks about the monarchy.

Defaming the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Thailand's strict lese majeste law, which Anon had also criticised.

Anon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Police said they were looking into what took place at Monday's protest, where Anon was a key speaker.

The government last month said the emergency decree in place since March would only be used as a measure against the coronavirus and from August onwards said it would not be used to prevent political rallies.

Six protest leaders or political activists in two different provinces were summoned last month for breaching the emergency decree, among other alleged offences.

In remarks at a military academy on Wednesday, army chief Apirat Kongsompong made no specific mention of the protests, but told military cadets they must be loyal to the nation.

"(COVID-19) is a curable disease, but hating the nation, hating one's own country, this is a disease that is not curable," Apirat said.

Source: Reuters/dv